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Syrian Government Army Takes Control of Flashpoint Idlib Village

© Sputnik / Mohamad Maruf / Go to the mediabankThe Syrian army conducts mine clearance outside the town of Khan Sheikhoun after its liberation, Idlib province, Syria
The Syrian army conducts mine clearance outside the town of Khan Sheikhoun after its liberation, Idlib province, Syria - Sputnik International
DAMASCUS (Sputnik) - The Syrian government has reclaimed control of Alteh, a flashpoint village in the Idlib province, according to a source in the Syrian military.

"The Syrian army has taken the strategic settlement of Alteh, in northeastern Idlib, under its control," the source said.

The village was a major stronghold of what used to be known as al-Qaeda in Syria, or the Nusra Front*.

The Syrian government began a military campaign on Thursday to reclaim control of the Idlib province, the last Islamist bulwark in the war-torn country. Several more villages have recently been freed from the jihadists' grip.

The statement comes after Syrian government troops regained control over several villages in the southeastern part of the province of Idlib.

"The Syrian army regained control of the villages of Al Bustan, Al Haraqi and Abu Sharjah northwest of Tal Damm, the village of Al Burj north of Sarja Gharbiya, Harran hills west of Sarja Gharbiya and Homs west of Al Burj," according to a field commander with the Syrian military.

Earlier in the day, Maj. Gen. Yuri Burenkov, head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Syria reconciliation centre, said that about one hundred Syrian jihadists tried to storm the Idlib village of Qarratin al-Qabira over the weekend but were repelled by government forces.

"On 21 December, a group of some 100 militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [banned in Russia] tried to break through the defenses of the Syrian government forces on the way to Qarratin al-Qabira," Burenkov said, adding that artillery fire thwarted the attack and killed many militants.

The militants launched another attack several hours later, north of the village of Sukayyat in the same region, the general said.

A suicide bomber on an explosive-laden armored vehicle additionally attempted to ram government positions but was destroyed. Militants returned fire, which killed six government troops and left 13 others injured, Burenkov said.

In August, the Syrian government conducted a military operation to seize parts of Hama and Idlib provinces that had been controlled by militants since 2014, including the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun, also gaining access to the M5 highway linking Damascus and Aleppo.

Idlib remains a terrorist stronghold, however, being home to an estimated 10,000 militants allied with various groups, according to the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team. In November, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the military liberation of Idlib would not take long, adding that the start of the offensive had been impeded by militants who have hindered the evacuation of civilians.

*Al-Nusra Front is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

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